Intuitive controls make it surprisingly easy to interact with complex effects. Great for players who want to get into vast, textural sounds but don’t like complicated pedals.
Less nuance in the pedal’s controls will probably keep advanced knob-tweakers away. Expensive.
Walrus Audio Fable
The realm of modern glitch-leaning, time-based effects is probably home to more knobs-per-box than any other pedal category. That gives players inclined toward these units more control than ever. Thanks to the constant advance of digital signal processing, we’ll probably keep heading in this direction for a while.
For players who want to delve into that sound world without an MFA in sound design, there is a small but growing class of pedals that will get you there with simpler controls. Walrus Audio’s Fable—described as a “granular soundscape generator,” which is as appropriate as can be—fits neatly into this category with intuitive controls and well-tuned presets.
No Prerequisites Required
The Fable’s five programs, chosen by one of its eight knobs, pair granular delay with various flavors of processing: reverse delay into reverse granular, forward delay into octave up granular, analog-style delay into octave down granular, multi-tap granular into multi-tap granular, and forward delay into randomized pitch granular. Those heady sound combos are created by running the input signal through a pair of DSP chips, each of which runs a separate effect in series. Feedback and regen knobs control the signal from each chip separately, then both signals are processed through each chip again. Knobs for modulation, mix, time, and tone have an obvious influence, and the X knob controls the grain size, which is to say the length of the short sample that is read from the delay buffer.
It would be easy to read that paragraph and think, “I do not have time to unpack any of this, let alone make music with these crazy sounds.” And I totally get that. But a great thing about the Fable is that understanding the processing is not a prerequisite to using the pedal, and frankly, it might even detract from initial enjoyment. I know I read the manual and attempted to prepare myself for each sound, and though it wasn’t a waste of time, I didn’t do myself any big favors. A big downside for many modern advanced glitch-oriented pedals is that they just take too much time to learn. With the Fable, it’s pretty easy to explore the full range of its complex sounds, which is a pretty cool thing.
Low (feedback) settings offered unique tones that ranged from the good kind of lo-fi digital detritus to warped tape artifacts that I would absolutely like to conjure in the future.
About Those Soundscapes
You probably shouldn’t come to the Fable looking for a wild range of basic granular delay sounds. While the delays each of the five programs deliver are different, there’s so much delay-based processing going on that the final result is less like a box of five very different crayons, and more like five shades of the same color. The most dramatic differences to be discovered in the Fable are by dialing the feedback/regen knobs, as well as the time and X controls. At high settings, if you hit one chord you’re immediately off on a cosmic soundscape quest. A nice feature here is that feedback and regen do not self-oscillate until they’re almost fully cranked, so there’s a lot of play in those higher settings. Low settings on those knobs don’t deliver big soundscapes, but I like the quick glitchy sounds they create, and playing single-note lines—rather than the vast chord sounds the latter settings had me leaning into—offered unique tones that ranged from the good kind of lo-fi digital detritus to warped tape artifacts that I would absolutely like to conjure in the future.
The Fable is a well-tuned art project that delivers five takes on granular processing in a surprisingly easy to use package. You shouldn’t approach this pedal looking to control every last tone nuance, something that may disappoint advanced knob-tweakers that find fine-tuning essential. But the Fable offers a great alternative. You simply plug in, get a sound, and bliss out. Pretty soon you will discover some cool tones and maybe inspired glitchy greatness. PG